MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Dunkerque Seaways’ Dover–Dunkirk 21 July 2018

Stephen Hedley; Research surveyor for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)

Weather: Outward: Bright, sea state 2, wind NE force 2-3. Return: Bright, sea state 2, wind N force 3-4

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Gannet  Morus bassanus 43
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 42
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 5
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 13
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Gull sp. 200
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 11
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1

It was a very busy day at the start of the holiday period for the port and ferry company; nevertheless, thanks to DFDS staff I was on board on time. The weather was bright and the visibility was reasonable, as was the sea state, throughout the survey. The survey began extremely quietly, and it was 10 minutes into the voyage before the first sighting was seen, a Herring Gull that may have followed the ship from the port. After a few more minutes the first Gannet was seen. It was an immature bird, the first of several seen during the survey. Sporadic sightings of Gannet, mostly in isolation or occasionally in pairs, were seen throughout the survey. Other than gull species in or around the ports, Gannet were the most frequent sightings of the day.

Gannet Rob Petley-Jones 09
Gannet (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

There were two individual sightings of Fulmar, plus Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. Closer to the French coast the first Kittiwake were seen. The only cetacean sighting of the survey, a lone Harbour Porpoise, was seen on the approach to Dunkirk. Individual Common Tern and Sandwich Tern were spotted soon afterwards and very close to the outer harbour wall a Cormorant was seen.

In port the ship gave a good view of ground nesting Lesser Black-backed Gull, many with chicks, plus Herring Gull with young were observed on nearby port building roofs. Black-headed Gull were also spotted flying around the berth.

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 06
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Library photo: Graham Ekins)

The return journey began with a similar pattern of observations; Cormorant and Tern and gull species closer to Dunkirk. Further out to sea were there were Gannet; both adult and immature. These were probably non-breeding birds. Three Fulmar were also spotted sitting on the water (note - I can't find the collective noun for Fulmar - is there one?). The survey ended in sunlight on entering Dover Harbour and being greeted by a very large flock of gulls (mostly Herring Gull - adults and juveniles) at the entrance, presumably attracted by the disturbed water and the chance of a juicy morsel that might be stirred up.

I would like to express very warm thanks to Captain Russell Smith and crew for their helpful advice and looking after me during the survey.